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August 27, 2014

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Michael Mizrachi breezes to second Poker Players Championship in three years

Mizrachi earns $1.45 million for outlasting 115 other players in $50,000 buy-in event

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Sam Morris

Michael Mizrachi smiles after taking a pot from Chris Klodnicki during the 2012 World Series of Poker $50,000 Players Championship.

WSOP Players Championship

Michael Mizrachi is congratulated by friends after winning the 2012 World Series of Poker $50,000 Players Championship. Launch slideshow »

Poker Players Championship finishes and payouts

  • 1. Michael Mizrachi — $1,451,257
  • 2. Chris Klodnicki— $896,935
  • 3. Andy Bloch— $561,738
  • 4. Luke Schwartz— $406,736
  • 5. Roland Israelashvili— $317,882
  • 6. Stephen Chidwick— $253,497
  • 7. Bill Chen— $205,856
  • 8. Bruno Fitoussi— $169,879

An emergency workout session, legend has it, enabled Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi to win the Poker Players Championship two years ago.

Fixated on the promise of the $1.55 million first-place prize, and overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to snag his first World Series of Poker bracelet, Mizrachi’s friends and family could tell he was an emotional mess when he got down to heads-up play against Vladimir Schmelev.

Mizrachi’s three brothers and poker pro Mike Matusow took him outside during one of the tournament’s breaks and put him through a routine that included jumping jacks and push-ups.

“We tried to make him real calm and relaxed,” Michael’s twin brother Eric Mizrachi recalled. “We had to get him breathing well, focused and get the blood flowing a little bit. It worked for him.”

The Grinder required no such intervention at the 2012 Poker Players Championship final table Thursday evening at the Rio. The other seven players could have surely used one.

Mizrachi rolled on the final day of the event, transforming what’s typically a dreary 15-hour affair into a five-hour demolition. He knocked out five of the other players on the table en route to winning $1.45 million and becoming the first person to twice have their names etched on the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy.

“Wherever I would have finished, it would have been respectable because I already won this title before,” Michael Mizrachi said. “Now to win it, it’s just beyond that. I just can’t believe I won it twice.”

Those around poker figured it would take 15 or 20 years — at least 10 — before anyone repeated as champion in the Poker Players Championship, an event that mixes eight games and is considered the world title for professionals.

Mizrachi pulled off the feat in the tournament’s seventh year of existence. The victory marked his third WSOP bracelet and increased his career tournament earnings to nearly $14 million.

That will make him fourth on the all-time money list, according to The Hendon Mob poker database.

“It’s another one for the books,” Michael Mizrachi said. “It’s another part of my history. I’m going to hopefully make history happen and become the all-time money winner in poker tournament history.”

When does The Grinder hope he can slide into that spot? Well, next Tuesday. That’s the final day of the WSOP’s $1 million buy-in tournament, which Mizrachi plans to buy into with the winnings from the Poker Players Championship.

The other 46 players committed to the most expensive poker tournament ever would probably prefer Mizrachi sit out after seeing what he pulled off Thursday.

He entered as the chip leader and extended his advantage in one of the first hands of the day. With pocket Aces in a no-limit hold’em hand, Mizrachi re-raised a bet from Bill Chen to put the two-time bracelet winner all-in.

Pot odds forced Chen to call, as he sheepishly flipped 8-7 suited. Another player, Bruno Fitoussi, had already committed all of his chips with Ace-King.

Mizrachi’s Aces held up, serving as a sign of things to come. He maintained the chip lead for all but less than 30 minutes when Philadelphia pro Chris Klodnicki won a few consecutive pots off of him.

But that was short-lived as Mizrachi took the majority of third-place finisher Andy Bloch’s chips in a pot-limit Omaha hand where he made a higher flush. The cards kept flowing towards Mizrachi when he got heads-up against Klodnicki, who won $896,935 for second place.

He showed down a 7-low in 2-to-7 triple draw. He was dealt two consecutive Aces on fifth and sixth street during a seven-card stud hand. He turned a straight in the deciding Omaha 8 or better hand.

Mizrachi had such a fortunate run of cards that his fan section chanted “best dealer ever.”

“It was the best you could possibly run at a final table,” Michael Mizrachi said. “The cards went my way, and I thought I played my best. When I was heads-up against Chris, I was getting all of the cards. It’s tough to play against somebody who keeps winning every hand and playing super-aggressive.”

Almost as soon as the final card hit the felt, Mizrachi grabbed his phone to call his mother. Susan Mizrachi stole much of the show the first time Michael won the Poker Players Championship, staying in the crowd for the full 14 hours loudly cheering her son towards victory.

“I wish she could be here,” Michael Mizrachi said. “I said, ‘don’t worry, take it easy. I got this.’”

There were plenty of differences from the two Poker Players Championships Mizrachi won. Most of all, this one went more smoothly.

“He doesn’t get worse,” Eric Mizrachi said. “Obviously, he’s an amazing player. He’s one of the best in the world, and I don’t say that because he’s my twin.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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